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1930 Industrial Britain: S. G. Brown

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Few firms have done more to enlist the discoveries of Science in the service of mankind than S. G. Brown, Limited, of Acton, behind whose multifarious activities in the realm of telegraphic, telephonic and gyroscopic research there functions the fertile and inventive brain of Mr. Sidney Brown, F.R.S., M.I.E.E., M.R.I., the founder and Managing Director of the firm.

On the seas, the "Brown" Gyro Compass is guiding the course of it great number of vessels of all sizes and nationalities, and the "Brown" Automatic Helmsman is enabling Atlantic greyhounds to Steer themselves across vast traits of ocean, unassisted by any human hand.

Underneath the seas, it was only the "Brown" inventions that made possible some of the greatest Strides in the development of Submarine Telegraphy.

In the air, the "Brown" instruments now found on the dashboards of many aeroplanes have introduced a new and much-needed factor of safety control.

In every sphere where noise predominates on the ships at sea, on the trains and in the factories on land, and in the mines beneath the land, the "Brown" Electro Megaphone is saving property and lives and expense by providing an efficient and reliable point to point speaking communication that is "undrownable" by the thunder of guns, the rumble of wheels, or the roar of machinery. In the world of wireless, it was Mr. Brown who patented the first Beam Wireless installation ever put into use in Great Britain - over thirty years ago; it was the " Brown " wireless equipment on which the British fighting forces relied almost exclusively in the early days of the war for maintaining communications; and the "Brown" headphones and loud-speakers hold pride of place where sensitivity and reliability are needed to-day; while in the development of the Public Address System, the House of Brown again has led the way. The whole of the firm's activities revolve around the inventive genius of the founder, Mr. Sidney Brown, who was elected it Fellow of the Royal Society in 1916 as it recognition of his services to Science, and who, during the later Stages of the war, was selected by the Admiralty to serve as one of the two Civilian Scientific Advisers (the other being Professor Vernon Boyes, F.R.S.) on the Admiralty Ordnance Council for Awards to Inventors.

Mr. Brown's inventive activities classify themselves chronologically into three groups. His early efforts were confined to Telegraphy. Then he passed on to Telephony. And now he is confining his investigations and researches almost entirely to Gyroscopic work. As a result of his recent efforts in this last-named sphere, he has now an extensive range of different kinds of gyroscopic productions ready for use on sea, in the At and on the land, and to cope with the widespread demand that has arisen for them from all parts of the world, it comprehensive extension and re-organisation of the Afton works has recently been undertaken.


The first of these gyroscopic productions is the Gyro Compass, which is steering ships on all five of the oceans. It was invented by Mr. Brown during the war. The unreliability and inaccuracy of the ordinary magnetic compass when mounted on it Steel-built still) had long been recognised, and in the autumn of 1914, when the only two inventors who had made progress in the direction of perfecting a gyro compass to replace the magnetic instrument were it German and an American. Mr. Brown realised the importance of the British Admiralty being independent of it foreign manufactured instrument. He therefore started investigation into this difficult undertaking, and in 1916, while the American and German inventors were still groping about in a vain endeavour to eliminate the quadrantal error from their experimental instruments, the "Brown" Gyro Compass was fit and ready for navigational purposes.

Among the notable vessels now equipped with it are the Cunard Carmania, the White Star Laurentic, the Canadian Pacific Empress of Australia, the French Line Ile de France (which is fitted with a "Brown" Automatic Helmsman as well) and the Union Castle Llandeff Castle, to mention but it few outstanding examples.

The "Brown" Gyro Compass is now not only ahead of the German and American makes in appearance, convenience and reliability, but it is the cheapest, the best and the most economical gyro compass in the world. The upkeep charges are practically nil, replacements are almost unknown, and testimonials from navigators have been received from all parts of the world.

Maintenance depots are now open in Canada, U.S.A., Japan, Spain, France, Italy and Denmark, and a school for the instruction of navigating officers in the operation of this and other of the "Brown" nautical instruments has been established at the firm's headquarters, and also in France.


This wonderful little piece of machinery, which, when locked on a Gyro Compass, steers a ship on a given course without human aid, was invented - to order - by Mr. Brown one week-end.

The glory of its invention is something of a romance. In i9z7, the firm had equipped with a Gyro Compass and Electro Megaphones the Ile de France, the 43,000-ton flagship of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, then in course of construction, and so satisfied were the owners with the "Brown" appliances that they expressed regret that the firm did not supply an Automatic Helmsman as well. There was some discussion, culminating in a promise being given by Mr. Brown that he would invent one. This he did, during a single week-end. The machine was then duly installed, and it has been rendering wonderful service ever since, without giving a single cause for complaint. The Automatic Helmsman not only affords relief to the quartermaster or helmsman from the constant Strain of Steering by the wheel over long open trails of ocean, but gives a more even movement to the ship. With the old methods of Steering a zig-zag course is inevitable. It is a sheer impossibility for the human hand to maintain dead accuracy for long periods. The ship cannot altogether be prevented from veering, and, in that event, it is common for the helmsman to over-correct. This means a further correction, resulting in the zig-zag course, consequently lengthening the distance the vessel has to travel, and increasing the fuel used.

The "Brown" Automatic Helmsman, on the other hand, reduces the amount of "rudder angle" and presents the least amount of resistance to the ship's course through the water. With less resistance to the ship, an increase in speed results. Further, because the vessel Steers a much Readier course, and requires less correction, the distance is greatly reduced, and less fuel is consequently needed. Finally, to the fact that the Automatic Helmsman ensures faster runs, must be added the further advantages of the ship's steadier movement.


Another of Mr. Brown's marine inventions now in regular use is the "Brown" Artificial Horizon, which provides the navigator at night with a base line from which to determine the altitude of heavenly bodies, and so fix the position of his ship. For many years numerous attempts had been made to solve the problem and produce an instrument of this kind, but the problem remained unsolved till S. G. Brown gave it his attention.


The latest of Mr. Brown's inventions, perfected only a few months ago, is for use in the air. It is a Bank and Turn Indicator, and it shows the aeroplane pilot whether he is making his turn correctly or whether he is slipping inwards or outwards from his correct circle. In the earlier days of flying the pilot used to rely on a piece of string as his guide, but the present high speed of aeroplanes renders a device of much greater accuracy essential. Many attempts were made to produce a Bank and Turn Indicator which would register correctly the movements of the machine, but although some products worked comparatively well, there was always a great difficulty in making an instrument which would give " dead beat " indications - which would immediately respond to the machine's movement and remain without any oscillation until further movement took place. It was left to Mr. S. G. Brown to come to the rescue, and he has now produced a Gyro Turn Indicator which is absolutely "dead beat," and which, moreover, obtains that result without recourse to complicated methods. An illustration of the instrument appears on page


It was the Navy which first gave voice to the need which the Electro Megaphone was invented to meet. The problem of maintaining satisfactory communication in ships of war, between the control Stations and the guns, was one that had hitherto defied solution. The thunder of modern guns had rendered the voice-pipe and the telephone useless. Leading telephone experts were invited to solve the problem, and competitive trials were instituted. The " Brown " Electro Megaphone won, and large numbers are now in use in every class of vessel in the Navy. Passenger ships followed the Navy's example, and the installation is now to be found on the vessels of the P. and O. Company, the Canadian Pacific Steamships Company, The White Star Line and Cunard Line and Holt Line, the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, the Anglo-American Oil Company, and several others.

On land it is being used to maintain communications in power Stations, gas works, foundries, newspaper printing works and other establishments where noise predominates. It is fitted to the trains of the London Electric Railway and the Chemin de Fer du Nord (France) to enable the drivers and guards to make themselves heard to one another above the roar and clatter of the trains. It is used by Fire Brigades for passing instructions to firemen separated from their main units, as for instance, when they are operating a jet from the top of a fire escape. And it is used down the Mines, where conditions make reliable communication under difficult circumstances absolutely essential. Messrs. S. G. Brown, Limited, are always ready to consider the possibility of adapting the principles of the Electro Megaphone to the special needs of any prospective client, and invite enquiries to that end.


Mr. Brown was one of the earliest pioneer workers in wireless telegraphy. As far back as 1899 he invented and patented the first Beam Wireless System ever put into use in this country. It was he who first introduced the term "Loud-speaker," and to-day the "Brown" Loud-speakers and Headphones rightfully occupy pride of place for all purposes in all parts of the world. In the Admiralty and the Merchant Service, "Brown" Headphones are used in operator's cabins. The world's cable companies Standardise on "Brown" headphones. Hospitals, which want the bat for their patients, choose them. The British Army pinned its faith to "Brown" Headphones during the war, when men’s lives depended upon reliability.


Like the "Brown" Headphones and Loud-speakers, the "Brown" Public Address System has led the way and set the standard in all parts of the world. The candidates in the recent British General Election addressed audiences of scores of thousands with its aid. It is installed in the Royal Albert Hall, London, where audiences of 10,000 regularly assemble to hear programmes of speech and music. It was employed at the Olympiads in Holland and Czecho Slovakia, where vast concourses of people had to be kept in touch with the progress of events. King George V. and the Prince of Wales have frequently made use of the "Brown" for addressing large public assemblies, and the Duke of York employed it during his visit to Melbourne.


This discourse on the history and activities of the House of Brown would not be complete without a reference to the pioneer part played by Mr. Brown in improving the system of Submarine Telegraphy. Without the famous "Brown" Drum cable relay which he invented and followed up with the "Brown" Magnetic Shunt, which is in universal use at the present time, modern submarine telegraphy would be well nigh impossible. By these two inventions, Lord Kelvin said in 1907, Mr. Brown had accomplished two things which he himself had tried to do and failed. "To Brown," he added, "great credit is due." Later, Mr. Brown produced a most successful instrument for increasing the speed of cabling, but more recently he has been concentrating his researches into telephonic and gyroscopic problems.

During the war his service was requested by the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Numerous propositions required for war purposes were sent to him or Isis works. Early in 1915 he was made a member of the special War Research Committee set up to try to discover a satisfactory means of detecting enemy submarines at a distance, and various devices were reproduced by him, including a microphone to operate under water. With this inventive genius at its head, and with an up-to-date factory, stocked with the best of modern plant, and staffed by an army of competent and contented workers, the firm of S. G. Brown, Limited, places its comprehensive services at the disposal of the Empire. If your requirements do not come within the range of its ordinary day-to-day activities, it will even consider the possibility of inventing what you want, if you will state your needs.

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